When you think of health, things like your heart health, digestive health, or mental health might come to mind. But what about your cognitive health? Is this something you consider on a regular basis? By the end of this post, we think it will be! Today, we're going to talk all about cognitive health, as well as the most effective biohacks for boosting your cognitive health.
What is Cognitive Health?
We'll begin by talking about exactly what we mean by cognitive health in the first place.
Let's turn to CogniFit for a helpful definition:
"Cognitive health refers mainly to thinking, learning, and memory. It also can include other components such as the motor function (how the person controls movements), emotional function (how a person can manage their emotions) and sensory function (how a person feels and responds to sensations such as pressure, pain, temperature, etc). A person with good cognitive health is a person who can think, learn and remember.
Therefore, “Cognition” is an important element of brain health, and to have good cognitive health means that the brain is fit and ready to carry out life and work demands. In conclusion, cognitive health is related to brain health and its complete function. It includes areas such as memory, language, learning, emotional function, sensory function, motor function, etc."
Pretty important stuff, right? It's no wonder so many people are curious about how to improve their cognitive health, including the best biohacks to do so.
Factors that affect cognitive functioning
As we learn more about cognitive health and what it means, it's also helpful to talk about the factors that influence cognitive health to begin with.
These factors include:
- Educational period
- Health life factors (including drinking and smoking)
- Social factors such (including social activity and occupation)
- History of disease
- Body mass index (BMI)
Interestingly, of these factors, certain ones are more closely associated with cognitive impairment: age, education, and depression.
Overall brain health
Before we get into those biohacks, let's also talk about some of the other aspects of overall brain health that are important to consider.
In addition to cognitive health, other aspects of brain health include:
- Motor function: Your motor function involves how well you make and control movements, including balance, reflexes, and muscle contraction.
- Emotional function: This involves how well you interpret and respond to emotions, including positive or negative emotions.
- Tactile function: Your tactile functioning involves how well you feel and respond to sensations of touch. These sensations can include pressure, pain, and temperature.
Biohacks for Cognitive Health
Now let's dig into those biohacks that can help you improve your cognitive health and many other aspects of brain health at the same time!
Before you roll your eyes at being told to exercise, it's worth considering how effective this practice can be for improving or maintaining cognitive health.
"The human brain contains 400 miles of blood vessels, to get blood deep inside the brain’s vascular network, the heart has to be strong, and your arteries and veins need to be open for blood to flow. The best way to do this is through exercise, which also helps to keep you cognitively sharp by maintaining network connectivity and brain volume in areas of the brain essential to learning and memory."
As for which exercises you should be doing, she elaborates:
"Simply put, all types of exercise benefit the brain. Aerobic exercise, such as walking or running on a treadmill, four times per week for six months was demonstrated to preserve brain volume versus those who just did stretching. One study demonstrated that older women who walked 30-50 minutes several times weekly improved blood flow to the brain by as much as 15% in 3 months."
Positive thinking isn't something that comes naturally to all of us. But what if we told you working on this practice could be one of the most effective biohacks for improving your cognitive function? It's true. In fact, every thought influences your cognitive function.
When these thoughts sway positive, you release hormones and neurotransmitters while also activating brain regions that lead to higher cognitive function, improved decision-making, and an overall happier disposition.
Don't believe us? Research shows that optimists live an average of 11-15% longer lives and have a much greater chance of living to 85 years old or longer.
Brain games and continuous learning
Keeping your brain active is another helpful cognitive health strategy.
One of the most effective biohacks for cognitive health involves what's known as continuous learning. This is a key step for maintaining your brain volume, which in turn, sharpens your cognitive health. This doesn't mean you have to do anything crazy, either.
Something like reading for 30 minutes each day can go a long way for boosting brain health! The benefits include, increasing your knowledge, expanding your vocabulary, engaging your creative mind, improving and strengthening memory and focus, and reducing stress.
Managing your stress
You already know that stress doesn't feel good. But did you know it can also have a negative impact on your cognitive function, too? This is all the more reason to work on reducing your stress levels however you can!
As Dr. Willeumier explains, "Stress kills nerve cells, shrinks grey matter, impairs your ability to think clearly, and increases your risk of age-related decline."
Biohacks for Reducing Stress and Improving Cognitive Health
So, what can you do to keep your stress levels in check, while in turn improving your cognitive health? Here are some biohacks for doing just that.
Eating magnesium-rich foods
When you're stressed, your body's levels of magnesium are depleted. The problem with this is that magnesium is a calming mineral. It creates a vicious cycle because magnesium helps reduce stress, but the more stressed you are, the less you have.
To counteract this effect, it's helpful to eat magnesium-rich foods. These include things like dark chocolate, kale, nuts, seeds, and bananas.
Drinking green tea
Several studies have found that drinking specific kinds of tea can help lower the stress hormone: cortisol.
Notably, the ingredient Camellia sinensis, AKA: green tea, can have a powerful effect on boosting your mood and reducing stress levels.
Additionally, there is also evidence of "long-term health benefits emerging, too: drinking at least 100 millilitres (about half a cup) of green tea a day seems to lower the risk of developing depression and dementia."
An ingredient found in green tea, L-theanine, can also be incredibly beneficial for your brain health: "The compound passes through the blood–brain barrier, so it could directly benefit brain plasticity — the process through which the brain regenerates itself. It could also act on the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis (the body’s stress response system), reducing cortisol and stress levels. Animal tests suggest that L-theanine also boosts the neurotransmitter GABA (γ-aminobutyric acid), which in turn reduces anxiety."
Vagus nerve stimulation is one of the best biohacks you haven't tried
Finally, let's talk about VNS or vagus nerve stimulation and what makes it one of the most effective biohacks not only for cognitive function, but mood, stress levels, and overall well-being.
With ear-based tVNS, a healthier balance in the nervous system can be maintained. The vagus nerve is the longest nerve in the body, and it's responsible for transmitting information to and from the surface of the brain to other tissues and organs.
By stimulating this nerve, it can send signals to the brain and body that it's time to relax. And the more glimpses of this relaxation it sees, the easier it can become to relax in the first place!
Rather than relying on more invasive methods to strengthen vagal tone, the Xen by Neuvana headphones let you do this simply by plugging in your headphones to the handheld device.
Xen is a patented electronic device that delivers gentle micropulses through headphones directly to the vagus nerve located in your ear. It pairs wirelessly to your Neuvana app, where you can customize your sessions. The result? Improved focus and calm anywhere you are.
Did you learn a lot about biohacks for cognitive health in this post?
Here are a few more posts to read next:
- The Vagus Nerve: The #1 Secret for Brain Hacking
- 15 Tips to Improve Mental Focus When at Work
- The Vagus Nerve: Our Hacks To Better Mental Health